Thanks be to God, the Diocese of Brooklyn is seeing more and more people coming back physically to Church to attend Mass. It will be a long time before we see life return to “normal” after the global pandemic of COVID-19, and, as cliched as it sounds, we are living in a state of “the new normal.” It may very well be a long time before we are not wearing masks in a public place.
However, things are getting better. More and more people in New York are getting vaccinated and more and more places are reopening. This includes the churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn. We have been open for Mass since late June 2020 and, with the perspective of COVID-19 infections on the downswing, thanks be to God more and more people are returning to in-person attendance at Holy Mass on Saturday Evening or Sunday. In fact, so many people are returning to Mass that, in order to observe social distancing, a number of parishes have actually had to add an extra Mass or two to their Sunday schedule.
It was a real and true blessing that so many of our parish priests were able to broadcast the daily and Sunday celebration of Holy Mass on their parish websites or on Facebook. No doubt these livestreams and recordings have already become part of the norm of parish life. It is a blessing that NET NY was (and is) able to televise the celebration of Mass from both Saint James Cathedral-Basilica and Saint Joseph’s Co-Cathedral. But now is the time for a return to church, in person, if one is physically able to do so.
In 303, the Christians of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis in the city of Abilene began to be persecuted by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It was this emperor who ordered his enforcers to persecute the Christians, stating: “the sacred texts and holy testaments of the Lord and the divine Scriptures be found, so that they could be burnt; the Lord’s basilicas were to be pulled down; and the celebration of sacred rites and holy reunions of the Lord were to be prohibited” (Acts of the Martyrs, I). These 49 Christians, men and women, clergy and laity, were martyred, put to death for refusing to stop gathering for Sunday worship. One of the martyrs, Emeritus, was asked by an official why he refused to stop gathering on Sunday for the celebration of the Eucharist. The martyr stated: “Sine dominico non possumus” (“We cannot live without Sunday”).
This is as true today as it was so many years ago: we as Christians, cannot live without gathering for the Sunday Eucharist where we hear God’s Word and where we receive his Body and Blood. We need each other, every brother and sister in the assembly. Cardinal Robert Sarah, former Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship stated in 2020:
“As much as the means of communication perform a valued service to the sick and those who are unable to go to church, and have performed a great service in the broadcast of Holy Mass at a time when there was no possibility of community celebrations, no broadcast is equal to personal participation or can replace it. On the contrary, these broadcasts alone risk distancing us from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God.”
Have we gotten used to living without Sunday, without the gathering of the People of God, the gathering of the Mystical Body of Christ, to celebrate the Eucharist, to hear the Word proclaimed, and for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?
“Sine dominico non possumus” should still be on our lips. “We cannot live without Sunday.”
Let’s come back together to Mass in our parishes.